If Gen Z wrote the rules for the Metaverse…

Metaverse, NFT, crypto, metaverse, NFT… you get the picture, it’s all you hear about these days. Heavy on buzzwords, light on detail. But as a nascent phenomenon, it’s not unexpected that the picture isn’t totally painted. As the hype is off the charts, we need to take the time to talk about where the metaverse is really taking us beyond its promise.

The metaverse may chop and change over the coming years but there’s a high probability it’ll be here. Look at Vine, for example, a micro-video blogging site that was popular with younger millennials and Gen Zers – it shut in early 2017. Even after it shut, the demand was there, and the reference to iconic vines and the compilations still reverberated across the internet. Years later, an app by the name of TikTok comes along to fill the gap and has now taken the world by storm. So, even if the Metaverse doesn’t look as it is now, it will grow to become something that we won’t be able to avoid.

What is the metaverse?

Let’s start with what it is: the Metaverse is the name given to the rising web3 phenomenon that will enable humans to connect in the virtual world in a way that web2 doesn’t allow. This will be through virtual spaces that feel realistic and mock the real-world environments we live in – including everyday living and gaming – the latter of which is the way we’re interacting with the metaverse currently.

Bloomberg projects its growth to reach an $800 billion industry size in just two years. Though with projections like these it’s important to remain sceptical, it shows how fast the industry is expected to grow over the coming years. It’s no surprise that Facebook rebranded to Meta and made its sole focus to capitalise on the future of the internet.

What’s Gen Z’s hot take?

Gen Z’s attitudes towards the metaverse are mixed, to say the least. At the moment, the initial instinct is that the metaverse is a plaything of Gen X and older millennials. The barrier to entry for virtual headsets and accessories is currently a luxury as the price tags are high. Without economic barriers taken into consideration in this area, Gen Z will be unlikely to invest in the full experience metaverse.

In a YPulse survey, Gen Zers are more likely than Millennials to say that the metaverse is ‘cool’ and ‘fun’, but on the other hand, they also say it’s ‘scary’ in higher numbers too. We’re definitely not crazy about it, but we are paying attention.

How will the Metaverse change our world?

The Metaverse will change many ways of living. From mental health growth to accessibility needs, how we connect and live our lives will be much different.

The upside is that we will have people participating in society more than they could in the real world. Without sounding too much like a tech mogul, the metaverse will allow us to forgo the boundaries of the physical world to live more. For example, with people that are hard-of-hearing or deaf, interacting in the metaverse without the barriers of reliance on lip reading – they’ll have the option to switch on their subtitles settings that’ll enable them to interact with the world around them in ways they couldn’t imagine. People who are physically disabled, they’ll get to experience the world freely and alongside others. Accessibility and equality are big on Gen Z’s agenda, it’s definitely something we’ll get behind, but only if that’s made a priority in the new world.

While we are excited about the metaverse, we still crave the feeling of being present with others. Two years of being without social interactions, we cherish it even more and forget those hybrid style meet-ups, we need physical communication! Being native to the internet and seeing its effects on ourselves and others, we know how too much internet can be bad for our mental health.

The metaverse is full of excitement and thrill, not least from Gen Zers. It may or may not transform the way we live, eat, work and socialise, but we’re hoping that it’s done with the productive and positive elements – economic, emotional and physical accessibility – in mind rather than the tunnel vision priorities of capital and profit-making.

Jawwad Mustafa is the Director of The Screenshot Newsletter. He’s always got a drink in hand - either peppermint tea, peach iced tea or a vanilla latte. If you see him with anything else, you’ll really need to vote for him as The Imposter. You can find his creativity on Instagram at @JawwadTheCreator.